... in airtravel

KLM your fluchthelfer

11 Feb 2008 | 239 words | amsterdam airtravel migration activism

A couple of years ago when we were busy with a number of campaigns against airlines who allowed forced deportations from europe on their flights i did a spoof website targeting the KLM (‘KLM – uw uitzettingsagent‘) that was part of a campaign with the same name of the now defunct autonoom centrum in Amsterdam.

It is kind of ironic to see that now more than 5 year later the KLM (in an email offer to the german members of their flying blue frequent flyer programme) advertises itself as a ‘fluchthelfer’ (german for ‘people smuggler’), which is exactly the opposite of what we accused them to be back then:

Of course it equally ironic that by now we are on most of the frequent flyer programs of the airlines we campaigned against. But then we already had a certain fascination for frequent flyer programs back in those days (which is beautifully expressed in gif animation on the page of the lufthansa deportation class active miles programme).

Update [12-02-08]: Predictably the Dutch version of the email offer fails to carry over the irony of the German version (did i ever mention that Dutch is quite an incomplete language?). I received the same email offer today and where the german says ‘fluchthilfen‘, the dutch version just says ‘break-away’ (em did i mention that dutch is basically a bad rip-off of german with a bit of english thrown in at random places?).

Mediterranean south bank

24 Jan 2008 | 53 words | mediterranean airtravel africa south africa

So i have written about Europe being the mediterranean northern bank on this blog before. When i flew to South Africa last week i actually had a chance to have a look at the Mediterranean south bank for the first time:

Tripoli as seen from the window of LH572 en route to Johannesburg.

On the state of the dollar

21 Jan 2008 | 45 words | airtravel food south africa

Scene: South African Airways flight SA265 from Johannesburg to Munich somewhere over Zimbabwe:

me: mam do you have any leftover meals?

flight attendant: chicken or pasta?

me: chicken please

flight attendant: 10 dollar (US)

me: i only have euros

flight attendant: then i’ll take five

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk > Grand Ayatollah Sayid Ruhullah Musawi Khomeini

25 Nov 2007 | 215 words | airtravel turkey iran religion modernity

At least when one is to believe the flight schedules of Turkish airlines and Iran Air. Since november 2007 both airlines have a daily service connecting Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport with the new Imam Khomeini International Airport just south of Tehran (actually it is quite a bit south of the city but very close to the shrine of the the late Grand Ayatollah).

Is it just me or isn’t it at least a tiny little bit ironic that there are direct flight’s between two airports that are named after the founder of the secular Turkish republic (the first and as far as i know only secular muslim majority country) and the leader of the Islamic Revolution that lead to the establishment of Islamic Republic of Iran. There are hardly two men who’s politics could be more opposed to each other (at least when it comes to the relationship between state and religion in the 20th Century). It appears that globalization and the associated travel patterns of the 21st century conveniently ignore such matters and integrate them in their highly codified languages:

… we are approaching Imam Khomeini International Airport, please bring your seatback in the upright position, fold away your tray-table, switch off all electronic devices, put on your headscarf and finish your last drink.

Chess boxing riot police...

27 Oct 2007 | 171 words | airtravel netherlands

So the Holland Herald (KLM’s in-flight magazine) runs a story about chess boxing, which is you guessed it a combination of chess and boxing. according to the article a match of chess boxing consists of alternating rounds of chess (4 minutes each) and boxing (2 minutes each). You can win by either checkmate or knockout. The game is inspired by Enki Bilal’s (who i have covered here before) 1992 comic book Froid Équateur and was apparently brought to the real world by some Dutchman (the reason why it is in the HH) who promptly became the first world champion in chess boxing.

Now unfortunately the photos in the holland herald do not even come close to Bilal’s imagination and i would guess that chess boxing is a pretty sad affair. However there is a little box next to the article that really triggers my imagination:

What a wonderfully whacky scenario: a riot police officer called frank “anti terror” stoldt fighting for the chess boxing world title to the tunes of junkie-xl

When i am president (Obama vs. Osama) ...

Just read a fairly impressive speech on terrorism by US presidential candidate (technically he is a candidate for nomination as a candidate) Barack Obama. The speech it is quite a contrast to what you hear from the current US administration and for large parts actually makes sense even though it contains a fair share of patriotic pathos. For all i know this speech is the first time i have come across a US presidential candidate (who actually has a realistic chance of winning) who seems to realize that there are people outside of the US who hate the US not because they hate freedom but because of the way the US are bullying around the rest of the world:

When you travel to the world’s trouble spots as a United States Senator, much of what you see is from a helicopter […] And it makes you stop and wonder: when those faces look up at an American helicopter, do they feel hope, or do they feel hate?

I guess realizing that the way the US are behaving themselves in the rest of the world is one of the root causes of what is labeled ‘global terrorism’ is one of the core qualifications you would wish any future president of the US to have. Lets hope that he still remembers this should he ever come to sit in one of these new presidential helicopters. Now unfortunately Mr Obama gets a little bit over-excited about his proverbial helicopter ride in the rest of his speech:

[…] That child looking up at the helicopter must see America and feel hope. […] I will speak directly to that child who looks up at that helicopter, and my message will be clear: “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.” […] The America I know is the last, best hope for that child looking up at a helicopter. It’s the country that put a man on the moon; that defeated fascism and helped rebuild Europe. […] And we can be what that child looking up at a helicopter needs us to be: the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny, and the light of hope to the world.

Not sure if this is a particularly realistic scenario [especially since mr. Obama also hints at invading pakistan in this speech]. Also, given the demographics of your typical ‘terrorist’ i think he should be more concerned about (young) adults than children, but then politicians seem to be generally unable to formulate unrealistic scenarios without referring to children. Guess this is because they are ‘pure’ or ‘innocent’ or both….

Update [22.08.07]: Shudda adds: ‘Nobody invades Pakistan without India’. Interesting times ahead indeed…

Parallel infrastructures (2)

25 Jul 2007 | 141 words | airtravel migration labor netherlands poland

About a year ago i blogged about mini busses shuttling polish migrant workers from poland to holland and back. In that post i had attributed the use of mini buses over trains (and regular busses) at least in part the fact that the mini busses are much faster than other means of transport. apparently they are not fast enough anymore:

The agrarisch dagblad (‘agricultural daily’) reports that P&E people, a Dutch temporary work aganecy supplying eastern and central European workers to the dutch labour market has started shutteling workers with a weekly wizz-air flight from Katowice to Eindhoven and back (complete with connecting shuttle bus services from and to the airports). At the moment they are providing space for 8 workers per flight, but there seem to be plans to offer this service to all of their workforce in the future.

Deportation class - for real?

16 Mar 2007 | 412 words | airtravel deportations migration business

So apparently some rather scary dudes from Austria (see picture below, but generally all males from Austria who are older than 50 give me the creeps) have come up with a really sick idea: Set up a charter airline that specializes in deportation flights from Europe to the warmer parts of this globe. If you believe the press reporting about their yet-to-be-realized plan then they are all about saving european taxpayers a couple of euros and making those forced deportations a little bit more enjoyable for everyone involved:

“With a professional service the deportations will be faster, chains will not be needed and the deportees can enjoy a meal.” The planned flights will have guards, medical staff and a representative of a human rights group on board, though there is no immediate news of plans for in-flight entertainment or a frequent-flyer scheme. [taken from an article from dermobilitaetsmanager.de, a website which advertises itself as the prime magazine about business travel]

Don’t really know where to start here. maybe with the ‘brilliant idea’ of having some clueless NGO provide in-flight legitimation. Mo doubt that there will be enough ‘human rights groups’ who are just waiting for that opportunity (they probably teach this kind of stuff during 1st year introduction classes for political science and communication studies students now). Or with the fact that they won’t have a frequent-flyer scheme? How lame is that? I mean even Lufthansa’s deportation classhad one way back in 2002!

But i guess none of this really matters. To figure out where this idea comes from, you just need to take a good look at the three people behind this ‘plan’ (deportation lawyer Hermann Heller, aviation consultant Heinz Berger and entepreneur Carl Julius Wagner): The picture pretty much tells it all: combine a sick obsession for military aircraft, with the urge to be some kind of modern day slave master and your wet dreams will inevitably make you fantasize about ‘asylum airlines’…

As usual the google ad-words engine is one spot on with its commentary sponsored links. the story on the mobilitäts manager site pulls up two google adds: one that suggests a probably even cheaper means of transport (but then these low cost airlines do not really fly outside of Europe so they are pretty much worthless when it comes to deportations) and the second one suggests a the next step for the deportees after they have finished ‘enjoying their meal’: Apply for a visa for the US:

Chi (from China with pride)

04 Mar 2007 | 228 words | china airtravel wine

Seems to me that globalization is more or less complete as of today. Until today i was under the impression that half of everything comes from Shenzen and the rest of the pearl river delta (also see my post about CFLs from a while ago) and the other half of things comes from other places. Looks like this is not true anymore, as now even the red wine comes from China (seems to have something to do with the fact that KLM is having an ‘experience china food and wine festival’ on board of its flights):

Never knew that the chinese were producing wine (which is surprisingly(?) good) in the first place. The internet is kind of silent about this fact as well and mainly comes up with stories about wine consumption in china: Apparently it is all the rage in Bejing to drink your red wine with sprite and ice:

Today, people in Beijing have also fallen under the spell of red wine. […] However, every imported idea inevitably undergoes Sinofication. By mixing red wine with Sprite and ice, the Beijing people have already invented their own way of “bottom-upping” dry red wine.

Just tried this myself and personally i think it makes much more sense to drink your wine without sprite and ice (all the air hostesses on this flight now consider me a crazy weirdo).

TXL --> BEY (revisited)

31 Dec 2006 | 531 words | beirut berlin lebanon airtravel

This post does not really make sense (in the sense of being one coherent entity) but rather shares a couple of observations that have nothing to do with each other. Fortunately i can tie them together by pointing to my first ever blog post (the ones that appear to have been posted earlier have actually been inserted at a later point in time) which was also written on the plane to from Berlin to Beirut.

What i wrote then also holds true for the behavior of the passengers on tonight’s flight (the crew is a bit more relaxed this time). Looks like flights from Berlin to Beirut are my favorite ones when it comes to social dynamics and the general behavior of the passengers. Of course there probably is a rather obvious explanation for the good vibe on this plane. Basically the whole plane is full of families and young people flying back to their ‘home’ country (or that of their parents) probably after not having been there for a long while. Couple that with the late hour of the day, the consumption of alcohol and the general excitement about seeing relatives and friends and you will have behavioral patterns that do not fit well with the rigidity of an economy class cabin. Tarek says that ‘they can turn an airplane in a souk in seconds’.

The only thing which is different today is that much of the conversations resolve around politics and a couple of people have asked me if i am not afraid to go to Beirut at this time, which as far as i can tell i am not. In contrast Lufthansa seems to be a afraid, as they do not allow their crews to have a lay over in Beirut because of ‘the political situation’, so the same crew has to operate both the in and outbound flight (10 hours in total).

For the rest i have just finished reading Steven Johnson’s ‘the ghost map‘ which is an absolute must read if you still read books. The whole book is a brilliantly written celebration of bacteria, map making, city dwelling and interdisciplinary collaboration (Commons based beer production for heather). and while i am recommending entertainment here i might just as well add that you should watch this little gem of a educational video on you tube.

Correction: i was lying, i did not finish ‘the ghost map’ on the plane, as i did not read the epilogue until today and this epilogue is worthless. Johnson suddenly starts talking about terrorism in an extremely annoying, hysterical and self righteous fashion (he is an Amercian after all). reading this made me question the whole book, so do not read the epilogue if you want to do yourself a favor.

Finally i hope to be posting quite a bit over the next few days, but in case i am not you might want to take a closer look at these two blogs (if you are interested in current events in Beirut): remarkz (more frequently updated) and anecdotes from a banana republic (much more entertaining! go read her observations about Walid Jumblat and Angela Merkel at the end of this post!)

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: